When it comes to writing about the theory of knowledge, all significant knowledge and skills of constructing an essay in general are applicable. However, additional precautionary measures must be taken during this process.
An essay on epistemology requires special attention to some of its main aspects to ensure its coherence and effectiveness in maximizing the quality of the writer’s arguments and the essay itself. A successful write-up of a theory of knowledge essay is composed of an organized, coherent structure and the writer’s demonstrably masterful familiarity with the given topic..
Structure of a Theory of Knowledge essay
For the most part, the writing process of creating a theory of knowledge essay follows the general guidelines for essay writing and structure. Writers, however, may find that essays on the theory of knowledge may be understood more in its form if it is seen through a slightly altered version. It is not too far from the general structure of an essay—its purpose is to make the essay conducive to the discussion of matters of theory of knowledge.
This version emphasizes on changes of the body of the essay. The “supporting details” would be named “arguments,” as in arguments for the thesis statement. There is a section reserved for the “counter-arguments”—arguments against the writer’s thesis statement and the discussed arguments.
The purpose of his nomenclature is to emphasize the weight of the supporting details. The “arguments” do not simply serve to support the main claim, but they also bear their own weight, respectable for debate and discourse. The counter-arguments are any potential rebuttals which the writer predicts may be made against his arguments. Finally, there is also a “rebuttals” section for the writer to address the counter-arguments.
The introduction of this version is also different. There is still a brief overview of the problematic and the thesis statement of the essay. In addition to this is a summary of the significant topics. While the readers of an essay are assumed to be familiar with the topics in the discussion, the writer is responsible for a brief summary of the topics that he will tackle. It does not need to be exhaustive; parts of the topics most relevant to the discussion are sufficient.
The importance of this is for the writer to highlight what is essential throughout the course of his argumentation and to draw implications, insights, and arguments. Furthermore, it will help the writer highlight the critical substance of his arguments and rebuttals and strengthen his case. All in all, the summary is not only for the benefit of readers who are unfamiliar with the topics, but also for the benefit of the writer in his essay.
Indirectly, it also proves the mettle of the writer—his familiarity with the works of epistemology. This highlights another characteristic that a writer must strive to attain: knowledge and familiarity of subjects in epistemology, particularly and especially those which he will discuss. This is the primary step that must take before even beginning to write an essay.
Knowledge and Familiarity of the Writer
A masterful familiarity with the topics is of utmost importance, because the writer must know precisely the argument and—even more crucially—what a theorist of knowledge said. A common mistake, and a fatal one at that, is when a writer attempts to write on a subject matter based on his own understanding of it which may be inaccurate. One cannot write an essay on, say, Linda Zagzebski, and make the mistake of thinking she advocates Cartesian skepticism—for in reality, she is a stark virtue epistemologist.
Unintentionally, the writer may commit a severe straw man that would discredit all of the arguments he makes. This does not mean that a person cannot have his own understanding of a work. If it is done right, it may lead to bountiful insights that are conducive to novel discussion. This is all for as long as the writer presumes adequate familiarity with the work he is discussing.
Furthermore, the writer must write strictly within the framework of the topic or theorist of epistemology that he will be discussing. Favorably also, the writer must make sure to focus on a specific argument or set of related arguments within the area or of the theorist. There are various theories that dictate many ways of knowing truths about phenomena, so it is best that the focus on a specific theory is sharp and precise.
There are two points of emphasis on this: first, it is to ensure that the writer stays within a particular focus. Having too broad a topic may lead to the essay becoming incoherent or insufficient or meandering. Returning to the thesis statement at hand and, to reiterate, remembering accurately what the theorist said are key to ensuring a coherent essay.
Secondly, this should underlie any theory of knowledge paper, whether it be analytical or argumentative. If two theorists are being compared, great care must be assured in establishing the connection between the two. What one theorist says may or may not coincide with what another theorist says. Again, familiarity of the works or theorist is of utmost importance.
Finally, the writer must ensure to keep in mind what the traditionally accepted notion of knowledge: JTB, or “justified true belief.” It dictates that for a knower to have knowledge, three criteria must be followed: he must believe in the claim, the claim must be true, and the knower must be justified in his belief by having a reason for it.
This has been the most commonly regarded definition of knowledge in traditional epistemology. Though it has been disputed for years, it is best for the writer to at least acknowledge this fundamental principle as he writes his epistemology essay.
General guidelines have been discussed thus far. Writers may find these general guidelines useful when it comes to discussing any area or theorist related to the theory of knowledge. However, writers will also find it essential to take into mind this guideline exemplifying a specific theorist.
Contemporary discussions and papers written on the theory of knowledge are all marked with the breakthrough of American philosopher Edmund Gettier. His three-page article, “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?,” shook the grounds of epistemology, prompting experts to respond to his famous “Gettier problem.”
In summary, Gettier proposed that JTB is insufficient by itself, citing cases where the knower satisfies all the criteria of JTB and still does not have knowledge, because the knower arrived at the belief due to external factors and not of his own intellectual capacity.
To be knowledgeable or, at least, aware of the impact that Gettier dealt on the theory of knowledge is crucial to the writer on the subject, as he must take caution in the claims he makes that may be made refutable by the Gettier problem. If it is not the Gettier problem that may shake the writer’s claims, it would be the multiple discussions that have already been made on the matter. The writer does not necessarily have to address Gettier every time he writes a paper on the theory of knowledge; he only needs to be aware of the problem like a looming shadow.
This goes even beyond Gettier. The academe of the theory of knowledge has an inexhaustible pool of analyses and debates conducted over the centuries. But the writer does not necessarily have to read through each one with hopes of a writing an infallible, irrefutable essay—there is no such thing. Instead, the writer must equip himself with awareness and openness of mind as he steps into the world of essay writing on epistemology. For that, he must know the theory that he is discussing—he must know the theorist whom he is presenting.
Justified, True, and Believed
To “know” a theorist is like what makes an acquaintance and a friend different. When a person knows an acquaintance, he knows where he lives, where he works, what his mother’s name is, and so on. When a person knows a friend, he can talk about him for ages. That is to say: knowing a theorist is to be able to not only repeat what he said, but also to speak more about his arguments.
Ultimately, what the theory of knowledge writer must remember is to observe absolute care in his writing. To produce a theory of knowledge essay is not a matter of conjecturing. It is a matter of systematic argumentation and a special attention to arguments presented by a theory and its proponents. To misrepresent or underrepresent them is to commit a massive disservice, not only to the theorists in question but to the value of intellectual discussion, for when one writes on epistemology, he becomes part of a network that collaborates together in a journey to intellectual enlightenment.
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